Eliana Swenson: I Found My Faith-Community at APU
“When I first started attending Azusa Pacific University in person—after a season of living halfway across the world and unexpected moves due to the pandemic—I felt rootless, without a home, and passive toward God. Today, I rejoice in a steadfast community where I finally belong: a place of fellow believers that spur me on in faith.”
Although Eliana Swenson ’24 grew up with a rich heritage of faith and two parents who had attended APU, she lacked a sense of Christian fellowship in her local Utah community. She accepted Christ and attended church, but desperately desired a God-fearing community of peers.
So, when God led her parents to missional entrepreneurship in Kenya, Swenson excitedly packed her bags and headed overseas to attend a Christian boarding high school. Once there, she was met with the unexpected—vastly differing perspectives, students struggling with doubt, and challenges to her faith. Swenson assessed her own beliefs and wrestled with uncertainty, claiming agnosticism and even atheism at different points in her high school journey.
“When I graduated in 2020, I had arrived at a place of cool complacency toward God,” Swenson said. “I knew who he was, but lacked a meaningful connection with Christ.”
Even so, God poured his faithfulness upon Swenson. In the midst of sudden border closures due to the pandemic, abrupt goodbyes, financial uncertainty, and making college plans for the future, God provided her with supernatural guidance toward APU. Even among all the logistical challenges, Swenson felt immense peace in this decision. She was bolstered by the prayers of many in her life who wished for her to attend APU.
As she began her freshman year online, deep friendships began to form in virtual Honors College colloquies, leading to the beginning of her faith-filled community she had craved for so many years.
When in-person classes began, however, and Swenson stepped foot onto campus, she suddenly felt without roots—separated from family and lacking a place to truly call home. At the same time, her study of Aquinas in the Honors College stirred her soul and caused her to ask: What is faith?
Seated in APU’s Prayer Garden, pouring over her Bible in search for an answer, Swenson called her parents in tears. They answered, despite being awakened in the night halfway across the world, and listened.
“They told me my diligent pursuit of this question, along with the conviction of my passivity, show that Christ has called me to him,” said Swenson. “All I had to do was answer and rejoice.”
Convicted by their words, Swenson immediately rushed to the Honors College office, where staff members and professors prayed for her, listened to her, and hugged her.
“Moments such as these—where I feel safe, loved, and supported in my faith journey by my school community—are what APU is all about,” said Swenson. “This is a place I finally feel belonging.”
Today, Swenson continues to answer and rejoice God’s calling on her life at APU: growing in weekly chapels, worshiping with friends, and attending her local church with fellow students. She will graduate with a double major in Honors Humanities and Art, along with a minor in entrepreneurship, and looks toward the future with newly planted roots in a faith-filled community.
Posted: March 7, 2022